I’ve been reading through the Bible this year and I’m in Exodus. I’m very impressed with how much God was concerned with relationship and community as he instructed Moses to help the people know how to handle disputes among one another.
He starts in Exodus 20 with the Ten Commandments which are applicable to all relationships, both our relationship with God and with others. Breaking any of those Ten Commandments results is damage in our relationship with God and with others.
But then God instructs Moses in chapters 21,22, and 23 to write a lot about who is responsible for what, and when someone messes up or hurts someone he or she must take responsibility for that. I think God knew our tendency to blame others and skirt our own responsibility to come clean as well as accept the consequences of our sin. God knew that for the community to function, these basics must be maintained. The New Testament contains much of the same. God is always concerned about relationships. Our relationship with him and with one another.
A few blogs back we had some discussion on whether certain verses applied to marriage. I believe all God’s instructions apply to all people. He also gives leaders, parents, slave owners and spouses certain extra instructions on how to handle the challenges in those particular relationships. In no way does that discount or diminish or exclude his general principles for relationships. That thinking is like taking the Ten Commandments and saying the only one that applies to marriage is the one about adultery. If a husband or wife doesn’t commit adultery but murders or lies to his or her spouse, does that make it okay because that verse doesn’t apply to marriage? Absolutely not.
This week’s question: My question for you today is this: My husband has controlled many of our finances since we were married in 1998. He has made nearly all the final decisions on major expenditures as well as tithing/giving. I have been contributing income since 2005. For several years, my income tripled his income.
Now, my income is lower than his. He doesn’t control my spending in every area. However, he has made several decisions on his own because he says he is the “leader” and has to have the final say when we don’t agree. He has been deceitful to me regarding several large financial decisions I did not agree on so he went ahead and did these things anyway. I feel he has really never valued my opinions and my beliefs on where and how much we tithe/give.
We have been to counseling three times for this issue as well as many others. I feel robbed, forced, controlled and devalued. I feel that he is tithing on what God purposes in only his own heart. I feel angry and resentful he will not allow me to tithe in a manner of what God purposes in my heart.
There have been times I did not give to people I may have wanted to because wisdom tells me we cannot just both be doing whatever we want with the finances. Over a year ago I asked him again to allow me to have input or make my own decision about giving based on what God was purposing in “my” heart. He threatened me with revenge of a sort and was very loud and angry.
I proposed he allow me to give what God purposes in my heart based off the income I bring in to the family account. He refused. He said he is doing what God has told him he must do and said it was his rightful position as head of the home showing his family how to properly tithe and he was responsible under God for me! I feel I have little freedom to be what God wants me to be.
He judges my salvation when I don’t agree or see a bible verse as he does. I feel resentful that even after a counseling session recently where it became evident he was too controlling on financial decisions, he still did not initiate any changes with me. I feel forced against my will. I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible giving husbands the right to force their wives into anything just because they are the husband.
He says it’s all about oneness. When I tell him ‘not’ allowing me to have a say or freedom in this area is not oneness, he says he’s the leader and he has to make the final decision as is God’s design for the marriage relationship. I want to tell him one more time I need him to stop giving on my portion of the income and allow me the freedom to hear God’s purpose for my heart in the area of generosity, but I’m afraid he’ll do something spiteful. What advice would you give me or others in this situation?
Answer: This is a great question but it is nuanced and has many levels to explore. I’m going to touch on a few of them. One is your relationship with your husband. The other is your relationship with God.
Your husband’s view of Biblical headship or leadership tells him that he’s instructed by God to make the final decision on things when you disagree or have a difference of opinions and a wife is to submit. Many good people both men and women hold these Biblical convictions. On the other hand, other godly people, both men, and women who hold a high view of Scripture would disagree and have a more egalitarian (cooperative and mutual submission) view of decision making within marriage.
However, your husband’s view of headship also seems to include deceiving you by lies of omission when he wants to do something financially that he knows you would disapprove of and threatening you with some kind of revenge if you refuse to comply.
Deceit and revenge are never biblically endorsed styles of leadership to be used when one doesn’t get compliance from others. In fact, Jesus strictly warned his disciples (the future leaders of his church) about misusing their power saying, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).
Jesus is clearly against a bully form of headship, even if one holds a complementarian view of headship. Jason Meyer, the head teaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper’s former church) teaches a complementarian view headship in marriage. However, he writes these words about hyper headship (I get my way form of headship):
“Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.”
Whichever side you fall on, I think both sides would agree, Jesus teaches servant headship and leadership, which doesn’t demand it’s own way (1 Corinthians 13:5), nor does it use verses out of context to get one’s one way.
So my thought is that your husband has gravitated to a theology that endorses and entitles him to do what he wants to do, while ignoring other strong Biblical instructions about sacrificially loving your wife (Ephesians 5:25), not being harsh with her (Colossians 3:19), and mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21).
Also, true Biblical submission is not something that can be forced or coerced by another person, including a spouse. The Biblical word for submission indicates it is a voluntary choice. Only the one who chooses to submit can willingly yield his or her own way. When a husband forces compliance, it is not biblical submission. It’s intimidation or force. There is a video on my Emotionally Destructive Relationship homepage video on headship and submission. Click Here to view the video.
But you also mentioned that you know “wisdom tells you that you both cannot be doing whatever you want with the finances.” And you’re so right. At times it sounds like you have chosen to willingly yield or submit to your husband’s decision about tithing for the sake of unity and peace in your home and marriage.
Right now, however, you talk about being angry and full of resentment. Your husband’s style of leadership has caused you great angst because as his partner you feel devalued, unheard, disrespected and controlled, especially around the area of tithing.
You do clarify that he’s not controlling in every area of your life, but he is especially rigid in tithing. Despite your protests, despite you earning much of the family income, despite three different counselors talking to him, he remains fixed in his ideas.
And now you want to tell him one more time that you need him to hear you and respect your feelings and stop deciding how to tithe on your portion of your income and allow you the freedom to hear God’s purpose for your heart in the area of generosity. But if you do that, you’re afraid he’ll do something spiteful. And from past history, he might do just that.
Instead of wasting your breath trying one more time to get him to hear, let’s talk about you for a minute. You say you NEED him to change. You NEED him to hear you and to give you the freedom to hear God’s purposes and tithe what you feel lead to do.
Your husband’s rigidity and restrictions on your tithing have resulted in you filling up with resentment and anger. I understand your frustration at not having a voice in this matter, I truly do. But let me challenge you a bit here.
First, I understand that you want him to change. That’s a no-brainer. But if you NEED him to change so that you aren’t filled up with anger and resentment, you are abdicating responsibility for your own well being and putting your spiritual, mental, and emotional health in his hands. In other words, you’re telling yourself that he has to change in order for you to be at peace. He has to change in order for you to let go of resentment. Or, to honor God with your heart and life.
I’m curious. God says that it’s your heart that he wants, not your sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13). Maybe right now you can’t tithe as you want or give your money freely but can you give God your heart, your resentment, and your anger that is threatening your own well-being? If you humbly and cheerfully go to God with your desire to tithe generously, do you think he sees your husband’s control and understands why you haven’t been free to be as generous as you would have liked?
Is God not big enough to provide generously for someone who is in your heart, someone who you might want to give to but are blocked right now? What is your picture of God in all of this? God is certainly displeased with your husband but what about you and how you are handling what your husband is doing wrong?
I think of it this way. What God wants me to BE is far more important than what I think God wants me to DO. So if I’m “doing God’s will,” for example: writing a book, speaking at a church, giving generously, but my heart is full of bitterness, resentment or angst, am I really pleasing God? Or am I doing something good, but for my own reasons and perhaps my own glory?
If it is your husband’s fault that you are filled with resentment, then in kind, could he not justify that it’s your fault that he’s filled with anger and resentment towards you too? God holds each of us responsible for the things we can change. You do not have the power to change your husband’s heart or convictions, but you certainly have the power (the Holy Spirit power) to change your own thinking and attitude.
That doesn’t mean you should endorse his leadership style. But if you want to stay well in your marriage you have to come to peace and accept that for now, your husband isn’t going to change. You are also going to have to resolve that you are not going to allow his rigidity, deceit, sneakiness, threats derail your relationship with God. Tithing doesn’t bring you closer to God, but confession, repentance and trusting him does.
These emotions are in direct opposite to resentment, anger, anxiety, and frustration. Being at peace with who your husband is and how he thinks and acts doesn’t mean that you like it. Nor does it mean that you don’t have some boundaries in place or you don’t speak up or implement consequences for his deceit, his sneakiness or other clearly unbiblical behaviors. But you are now doing it from a place of love and power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You’re doing it by faith and in the Holy Spirit’s power, not a place of fear, resentment, and anger. God cares about who you are and who you are becoming far more than how much money you give.
I encourage you to focus on that right now and then from a different mindset and with spiritual clarity, I believe he will show you what to do next.
Friend, when you have been filled up with negative emotions (perhaps with good reason), how have you learned to let them go and get to a peaceful place, even if your circumstances haven’t changed?